Updated: Oct 3, 2019
I recently consulted with a client who owed almost $50,000.00 in back-pay for child support. His story was not that different from many who have come to see me. He had missed so many payments that almost half of his check was going to child support. His reason? He'd been incarcerated for 10 years and never asked the court to modify his court order.
As of Dec. 31, 2017 there were approximately 1.49 million people in federal and state prison. More than 50 percent of those inmates have one or more child under the age of 18, leaving an estimated 2.7 million children with a parent incarcerated. In addition, a 2003 study estimated that one quarter of inmates in prisons had a child support case. Based on current prison populations, this suggests that approximately 400,000 inmates have a child support case.
Due to limited resources, many of those who are incarcerated are not aware of the steps that need to be taken to modify their orders. Some parents even assume that child support automatically stops when they are in jail or prison. However, that is not the case. The order that was in place before he/she was incarcerated will continue to be in place until a new order is signed by the judge.
This means that until a parent petitions the court to modify the existing child support order, the parent will continue to be liable for the monthly amount due for child support PLUS interest (6% per annum).
Knowing how to modify a child support order while incarcerated is both important and necessary because many of those who are incarcerated have and opportunity to be released early on parole. Failing to pay child support, because of its quasi-criminal nature, is a violation of parole terms and could send a parolee back to prison.
If I'm Incarcerated, How Do I Get The Court To Modify My Order?
File a request for a “review and adjustment” of your order - To see if your case qualifies for a lower monthly child support payment, you will need to complete the Inquiry Form for Incarcerated Parents and request a review. Completing this form tells the attorney general that you would like information on your case or that you are requesting a review of your case for possible legal action. This form may be made available to you in your facility. This process can take a little longer than hiring a private attorney due to the volume of cases that the attorney general has.